Hemming Knit Fabrics

I usually make one-inch hems on my knits. Well, here is how I do it. These instructions have not been fail-safe tested, or even idiot-proofed (g).

First I pull the inside-out garment over the end of the ironing board and pin the hem to the wrong side, using my adjustable hem gauge. The pins are placed pointing towards the folded edge. Then, one ironing-board width at a time, I steam press the hem flat, place the long edges of two metal Dritz/Bishop ezy-hem™ thingies over the entire hem (overlapping), set the iron on top of the overlap, do something else for a couple of minutes, then repeat (lets it cool).

Once all the way around, remove the pins and get out the 5/8-inch stitch witchery™. Use this to fuse the layers together with the steam iron, stretching the fabric slightly as I go (this fusing will slightly stiffen the hem layers, but will soften with age). When done, the garment is turned right side out.

If it is a casual garment, I use a balanced zigzag stitch, length and width of 4 cm (i.e., length and width are the same). In this case, skip all further references to a twin needle.

When I don't use a zigzag stitch for the hem, I use a twin needle. The twin needle should meet the following requirements:

a) if you are stitching a knit fabric the needle should be designated stretch or ball point

b) can you find such a twin needle the width you want, or the same width as the existing stitching on the shirt you are repairing

c) is your presser foot wide enough to handle this twin needle?

Here's sample information on a twin needle packet:


brand name


needle style

130/705 h-s zwi

needle model number


width is 4, needle size is 75

If I don't have two spools of thread to load from the top, then I can have two bobbins, one for the bobbin case and one to run to the twin needles alongside the spool. The top tension should be loosened so that the top threads will be pulled to the back somewhat by the bobbin thread (which is now relatively tighter than the top threads).

If I'm going to use a zigzag stitch, I switch the sewing machine to the stitch I want, making sure that the needle is in its "left swing" position. In either case, with the presser foot in the upper position, I hold the wrong side of the hem under the presser foot with the hem's fold edge towards the right. I figure out where the left side of the zigzag will hit or where the left needle will hit, aiming for that part of the stitch to be on or just below the cut edge of the hem. I take note of where the right edge of the fabric hits among the markings on my machine, so I turn the garment over to the right side, placing the hem edge at the same location. I stitch completely around, stretching as much as the fused hem will allow me. With a double needle, I stitch rather slowly.